April Fools' Special - "Now You See Me" - Credits
Written by Jordan Cobb.
Directed by Sarah Shachat.
Script Editing by Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina.
Performance by Lisette Alvarez as Verena Morisseau.
Original Music by Alan Rodi.
Sound Design by Zach Valenti.
Produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina,
along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay.
April Fools' Special - "Now You See Me" - Transcript
Announcer: The following episode contains depictions of body horror and fantasy violence. Listener discretion is advised.
[Unseen opening credits music plays.]
Announcer: Long Story Short Productions presents... Unseen.
[Unseen Theme continues playing.]
Announcer: April Fools' Special. Now You See Me by Jordan Cobb.
[A thrum of magical power.]
VERENA: When it comes to magic... It's all about what you see.
[Another thrum of power.]
VERENA: Light and shadow. Expectation. Reality. All it takes is a... shift in perspective, and you can turn a cheap trick into something extraordinary. Limitless. Real magic.
[A snap of fingers. The magic abruptly cuts off.]
VERENA: But not on your own, of course. If you want to really pull off a trick, you need more than magic. Every magician needs a partner in crime. Another half to the equation. You need... well, someone you're tricking. You need a fool.
[She scoffs. Soft piano music begins playing.]
VERENA: Back then, I thought I was one hell of a magician. Or at least, I could be. I saw it all so clearly. Fall break of my senior year. I was going to pull off one hell of a trick. Unfortunately for me, the universe has a funny sense of humor.
[The sounds of a New York City street fade in.]
VERENA: There's a famous quote, that's attributed to no one: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."
[We hear footsteps at Verena walks through the street.]
VERENA: Since no one else has claimed it, I give you permission to attribute it to Verena Morisseau. That is, to me. [She laughs.] Gotta take what you want, right? That's how it's always been for me, anyway. I'm the only one in my family who can see past The Caul. Well, that's not exactly true. There was someone who never questioned that I could make lightning spark out of my fingertips. One person who believed that a vibrant, vivid world was out there, right at the edge of your vision. Who believed in... well, me. The fullest version of me.
[She continues walking down the street. We hear the sounds of various people walking around her. A siren blares past as cars drive down the street.]
VERENA: Back when we were kids, my sister I used to roam the city in search of adventure. She couldn't see the way that there were people on every street corner who... weren't human. She couldn't see the creatures swimming in the East River, or the flicker of wings in the crowds at Times Square. She just thought I had a colorful imagination. A penchant for fairytales. But she never teased me. Never.
[The sounds of the crowd grow softer.]
VERENA: When I was little, she used to write stories. About the worlds I told her about, the ones only I could see. When I got old enough, she encouraged me to write them myself. Then... she graduated high school. Skipped college and got a job right away. She had big plans.
[There's a sudden whipping sound. Abruptly the music cuts off. We hear the sounds of an office as Verena walks through it.]
VERENA: I remember the first day I went to visit her. It was so... grey. The men all wore cheap, grey suits, and the women were talking into clunky plastic headsets. They moved slowly, mechanically, like wooden puppets on half-cut strings, while the paint peeled from the walls.
[Keys clack as someone types into their computers.]
And there was my sister - her eyes glued to her computer screen, as she typed on her keyboard. She didn't even seem to notice the flowers on her desk were dying. I tried to shake her out of it, tried to get her to laugh at just one joke, tell me just one story. To smile at me, just once. Hell, to even look at me for more than a second before turning back to her computer or her phone!
VERENA: But she wouldn't. She brushed me off. Told me to grow up. "Open your eyes, Verena! This is what life looks like," she snapped, "You can't live in a fairytale." I couldn't help but stare at the goblin sitting two cubicles away from her. [Scoffs.] And I’m the one who needs to open my eyes?
[Dramatic piano music starts playing. Slowly, the sounds of the office fade out.]
VERENA: And in that moment... it was clear as fairy wings. I don't remember a time I couldn't see past the Caul, or when magic wasn't a part of my life. I always thought I could straddle that line forever, but this? This was all there was. This was life without magic. And it was empty. My sister had always been the vibrant one. She was our parent's darling, the one with a future, the one with the world at her fingertips. But her world was so... Normal. It was sad and lifeless and grey. And if I didn't do something... I would end up just like her.
[The sounds of a high school fade in. Students talk and mill about.]
VERENA: It was now or never. My parents had started to not sosubtly hint about getting a job and not dying alone in some ditch after graduation. Things at school weren't much better. Seemed like no one could pass up a chance to remind me just how important it was to make something of myself.
[Chalk scratches against a blackboard as a professor writes something for their class.]
VERENA: And every time I set foot in class, it was the same: Death by a thousand essay prompts. "Dear stupid college essay people...
VERENA: [overlapping] "An identity, talent or interest I possess that is meaningful, is..."
VERENA: [overlapping] ""One accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked my personal growth occurred when..."
VERENA: [overlapping] ""The thing that makes me worthy is..."
VERENA: [overlapping] "I will feel good enough when..."
VERENA: [overlapping] ...people, please, oh please, find something SOMEWHERE inside of me as I pour my guts out into this six hundred and fifty words or less essay that you like enough to let me attend your stupid special school!"
[The chalk clatters on the ground. Abruptly, the music cuts off.]
VERENA: I just... couldn't. All I could think of was my sister. Was this what it was going to be like? Day in, day out - waiting, and begging, and scrapping in the dirt for somebody, anybody, to pick me out of the crowd? Just so I could fit in? To sit in a cubicle somewhere, watching flowers die? Just for the opportunity to be normal? I didn't want to be normal. I didn't want any of this. [Pause.] So... I threw applications.
[Papers land in a wastebasket. A zap of lightning hits them, and they catch on fire.]
VERENA: All of them. Forget normal. Let everyone else waste away in a world of grey. I had a whole world of magic waiting for me. I just had to reach out... and take it.
[The sounds of Central Park fade in. Lush outdoor space and birdsong.]
VERENA: There's a castle in Central Park. It sits on a rocky outcrop above a lake. To the unseeing eye, it's an old, abandoned building. Beautiful, but nothing special. There's a rumor that if you go inside, it's been turned into a weather station or something like that...
[Some joggers trot past, and a bicycle rides past. Soft, comforting music starts to fade in.]
VERENA: But if you actually know how to look, the castle stretches out, like a collection of spiraling stalagmites. The walls are black as night, glittering with pinpricks of shifting light. It's - it's as if the constellations were trapped within the stone. The whole place crackles with a natural energy like nothing I've felt anywhere else in the city. Electric. It pulls at you. Draws you in. Dark and sweeping, like a black hole. She holds you with the promise of a whole world of secrets inside. [Laughs.] And she delivers.
VERENA: The place is every bit as mysterious and powerful as the fae sorcerer who lives there. They call him Egon Adeyemi. The Chimerical King of New York. Some people say he's one of the most powerful glamourists north of the Equator. But the much more interesting rumor is that once a year, in the Spring, Egon opens the doors to his castle in search of a new apprentice. He invites the most promising young magic users, between the ages of twelve and seventeen to... "surprise him." If I wanted to make a place for myself in the Unseen World, then I needed to train with the best. If I wanted any chance of escaping normal... I had to get Egon to notice me. Unfortunately for me, nearly every other magical kid in the city had the exact same idea.
[Footsteps as Verena hikes up to the castle. The music ends.]
[An enormous pair of wooden doors swings open. We hear the sound of various people in soft, muttered conversation.]
VERENA: When I got there, there must have already been a hundred other people in the chamber. There were two, maybe three dozen kids, most of them with their parents, or mentors.
[Assorted spells and discharges of magical energy ring out throughout the room.]
VERENA: Everyone was stretching, or chanting, preparing incantations and spells. One girl was even singing. Their magic filled the halls, and a lot of them were... really good. Not that I was worried, though. Hey, I might not have the advantage of a magical family, but I'd trained for four years to earn my place here. It takes a lot of commitment to be flunking history, math, and Spanish! I'd put all that study time into rehearsing for this moment. I might not graduate high school, but I was absolutely going to be Egon's next apprentice.
[A door opens. Various voices shush the people around them. Footsteps ring out as someone walks across the room. Awed whispers are heard around this new presence.]
VERENA: When I first saw Egon, I couldn't help but think that he looked like the bad guy from a fantasy novel. He was tall and muscular, made up of sharp angles and shadow. He had the usual pointed ears of the Fae, but there was something... mischievous about the way he smiled. His skin was dark brown, but his eyes were like living fire - bright gold, and constantly moving as he gazed out at the crowd. He stood there, absently twirling a snakes-head cane, as his cloak - which was the exact same color as his slicked back red hair - billowed in an unseen breeze.
[We hear his cloak flapping. The crowd is silent.]
VERENA: Everything went quiet. It felt like maybe my ears had stopped working, or maybe all of the oxygen had just gone out of the room. But the second Egon appeared, it was as if the rest of the world just... fell away. I couldn't help but wonder if I was looking at my future. I had to hope he was looking out at us, wondering if he was looking at his future, too. Then finally, he spoke: "Well. Shall we begin?”
[Egon snaps his fingers. Another impressive set of doors swings open.]
VERENA: One by one, each candidate was called into a chamber at the end of the entry hall.
[A door opens, footsteps trot up to it, and the door shuts again.]
VERENA: The door would open. A name would be called. The door would shut. And then we would wait... and wait... and wait... Eventually, the door would open again, and the next victim would be called in. It went on for hours. And then...
[The door creaks open.]
VERENA: I heard my name.
[Verena walks up to the door. It closes behind her, and she enters a new space, where her words echo as she says them.]
VERENA: I found myself standing on the stage of an enormous, empty theater. The room smelled like old parchment, and faded perfume. Heavy velvet curtains lined the stage, and beyond the golden arches of the footlights, a sea of worn, ornate seats stared back at me. Egon was nowhere in sight. And then, a voice. His voice. From right behind me, and yet, somehow - from every corner of the room, I heard him... "You're not just going to stand there, are you? Let's see what you can do."
[Verena takes a deep breath. We hear her magic arc as she summons her power.]
VERENA: I can't tell you what happened next. I can't tell you what I did, or how. All I remember was a feeling in my chest like I was... soaring. It was freedom and fire, light, and air. It was magic like I had never done before, and the whole theater glowed. Everything I had. Everything I was, in one brief, and brilliant, beautiful burst... And for just that instant... I knew who I was. And I was home.
[A spotlight turns on.]
VERENA: In that instant... I could see my whole future. Not just a secret I had to keep to myself, not just a dream. But a real life. I could be a sorcerer. I could visit parts of the world that didn't show up on any map. I could speak to dragons. I saw a partnership with Egon, and all the adventures he would whisk me away on, and all the lives we could change. It was technicolor. Possibility, in a world full of grey.
[The spotlight turns off. Footsteps approach Verena.]
VERENA: A servant appeared to lead me into the waiting room, but it was just a matter of time at that point. Any minute now, he would come. I knew, any minute, Egon would walk out of that room, and look out over the crowd, and he would pick me.
[A fireplace crackles, gradually dwindling. Various guests talk in low conversation.]
VERENA: The minutes passed. Another candidate left the room. Then another, and another. The hours ticked by while we waited... and waited... and waited. And then...
[A door creaks open.]
VERENA: A servant appeared in the entryway. He told us that Egon thanked us all greatly, but that the time had come for us to please vacate the premises. There would be no apprentice selected this year.
VERENA: ... what?
[Muted, angry murmurs start to fill the hall.]
VERENA: There had to be some mistake. It had to be some kind of trick! I had been good! Better than good, I know I was. I had been brilliant. Was - was that not enough? Was... I... not -
[The angry muttering gets louder.]
VERENA: He didn't want me. Worse than that, he couldn't even be bothered to tell me, tell any of us to our face that we just hadn't been good enough. And I - Oh god... I threw out my college applications for this! In a couple of day's time my classmates would be getting their acceptance letters, preparing to head off into their bright, sunny, forever futures, and I... I wasn't going to make it out of high school, and I'm already seventeen, which means this is the end of the line for me. There's no - there is no "try again next year!" There's only me, failing, being left behind, and losing everything, because I've never been anything like good enough in the Seen World and - and it looks like the world beyond The Caul does not... is never going to want me.
[The crowd around her starts to file out.]
[A chair scrapes against the floor as Verena stands up.]
VERENA: No. I wasn't about to lose this chance. I wasn't going to let him take it from me.
[Footsteps as she moves through the room.]
VERENA: I know it was stupid. I know that. Breaking into people's houses is... generally frowned upon. Breaking into the magical castle of somebody who could incinerate me just by blinking? Definitely discouraged! Honestly, with all the tricks Egon had up his sleeve, he could have probably been standing right next to me, and I never would have noticed.
[A pause. She stops walking.]
VERENA: ... I'm... really glad I didn't think of that at the time, because I never would have done the whole... trespassing thing if I had.
[Her footsteps resume.]
VERENA: But I knew I couldn't just leave. Not when I was so close. All I could think was if he just met me, he would let me stay. I had to make him face me.
[The crowd starts to head out of the castle.]
VERENA: The thing about crowds, is that it is VERY easy to get lost in one. And when that crowd is made up of a couple dozen pissed sorcery prodigies and their over-bearing helicopter parents? Yeah. Let's just say, "accidentally" getting lost on my way to the front door was WAY easier than it had any right to be. In my defense, it wasn't really
breaking and entering. He invited me here. I just... didn't leave. Instead, I ducked into a closet...
[A small wooden door is opened, and Verena knocks into various objects as she crams herself into the tiny space.]
VERENA: ...wedging myself in between a step ladder, and what looked like a broom with two arms that had been chained to the wall.
[Chains jangle slightly. Slowly, the sounds of the crowd fade out as the last of them leave.]
VERENA: I don't know how long I was there. Time is sort of meaningless when you're in a closet. I just know I waited until the castle was quiet.
[In the distance, the front door rumbles and echoes as it shuts.]
[Verena climbs out of the closet. Her footsteps echo around the room.]
VERENA: The black stone corridors were huge, and echoing - and all around me, images of the great and terrible history of the Fae unraveled themselves in tapestries and enormous murals that sprawled across the walls and glittering ceilings. The first Sylvan kingdom... the rise of Ryllgar... the loss of the Crown Jewels... Every now and then, out of the corner of my eye, I could see the paintings moving, the woven tapestry archers pulling back on their bowstrings.
VERENA: Finding Egon's office took longer than I'd like to admit. In my defense, the man lives in a magical castle. But when I did find it?
[A door squeaks open. Verena enters a new space, one filled with various magical gadgets and glass vials full of churning liquids and chemicals.]
VERENA: It was... breathtaking. Imagine an old-school laboratory. Something you'd see in a bad Frankenstein movie, or a made for TV Jekyll and Hyde. Bubbling beakers, and strange dripping apparatus... Huge leather-bound books, parchment scattered everywhere... and one of those flashing glass orb of electricity, like a novelty plasma ball had a baby with Nikola Tesla's death ray. Now imagine that room had no walls. Only space. Spinning and swirling, a multitude of colors and shapes, forming and shattering and re-coalescing at will, all around you. Life inside a kaleidoscope. That's what it was like.
VERENA: I had to reach down and touch the floor to be sure it was even really there. I'd never seen a glamour so complete, so intense... For a moment, it stopped me in my tracks. Once I'd gotten used to it though, I started to take a look around. I needed to find the right spot. Like a really... cool place to stand, so that when Egon walked in I could just... appear! And then I'd confront him. And yes, okay, I know it sounds stupid saying it out loud! Shut up. It looked way cooler in my head.
[She walks across the room, eventually stopping and pushing some objects aside.]
VERENA: I decided I wanted him to find me sitting on his desk. It was a big, antique wooden thing tucked in a shadowy corner of the room. I was just starting to rehearse my speech... when I saw the Fish.
[There's a soft swish of delicate magical energy.]
VERENA: There was an ornate crystal bubble resting on one of the books at the edge of Egon's desk, like a paperweight. Inside, I could see a beautiful, intricately folded paper fish. But... it was moving.
[There's a slight rustle from inside the glass.]
VERENA: It looked like one of those Siamese fighting fish... Betta Splendens? But entirely made out of paper. It swam around inside the bubble, just like a real fish, the colors of its paper scales flickering and shifting. Something flashed across the surface of the bubble... Thin lines, carved right on the surface, but which hadn't been there a second before. They ran together, and formed a single word: "Ipseity." I guess it's not the weirdest name for a fish, but it's not what I would have gone with...
VERENA: I didn't think, I just... picked it up. It was so beautiful. So obviously magical, that I just knew it would make the perfect prop. Egon would push open the door, and he would see me, standing here, tossing the Ipseity up and down in its little crystal. And I would say something cool like - “Looking for something?”
[Verena gasps, fumbling...]
[The glass slips from her hands...]
VERENA: And that's about as far as that thought went, before I fumbled my catch, and the stupid fish-bubble went spinning out of my hands... and smashed against the floor.
[Glass hits the floor and shatters. There's a rising, whistling sound as the paper fish rises from the debris.]
VERENA: Oh, this can't be good.
[The tiny fish starts darting through the space, crashing into various objects and knocking them to the ground.]
VERENA: The Fish went BERSERK. I don't know if it had been a while since Egon had last walked it, or if he just didn't like the look of my face, but the Ipseity took to smashing up the office like a T-rex in a china shop.
[Various delicate objects break.]
VERENA: I did the only thing I could think to do and threw myself under the desk.
[A thump as Verena hits the ground. More objects break.]
VERENA: I could hear it throwing books off the bookshelves, and sending the beakers flying into the walls. Potions exploded. Magical artifacts started letting off sparks left and right, and all I could think was, "Well... there goes my forever future." I was well and truly screwed.
[With a whoosh, the fish darts out of the room.]
VERENA: No, now I was well and truly screwed. I can't believe I left the door open. How could I be so stupid?! There was no way someone didn't hear all that carnage. Which means I was about to be in a world of trouble. The only way I could maybe - maybe - avoid being trapped inside a little crystal myself was to at least catch the stupid fish. If I could find a way to stick it back in its bubble, I might just be able to scrape together a case for myself. If Ahab could do it, so could I, right? Yeah, don't answer that.
[She scrambles out of the room and darts down the hallway.]
VERENA: I did have one thing going for me.
[In the distance, the fish whizzes and crashes into more things.]
VERENA: The Ipseity didn't exactly make it hard to follow his trail. I followed it through a set of heavy chestnut doors and I found myself standing on a small marble balcony, overlooking an enormous ballroom. What's a magic castle without a gigantic ballroom, right?
VERENA: This one was beautiful, though. Candelabras draped in gossamer spiderwebs drifted, unlit and untethered, through the air. Rich blue curtains lined floor-to-ceiling windows, and through the crystal panes, I could see New York City under the burning light of the moon.
[Around her, there's paper rustling and the tinkling of a disturbed lighting fixture.]
VERENA: The paper Fish was bouncing around one of the candelabras, just out of reach.
[Footsteps as Verena runs through the room.]
VERENA: I hurried down the marble steps, moving out into the ballroom as it swam through the air over my head. I concentrated.
[A hum of energy as Verena begins casting a spell.]
VERENA: Conjuring a binding spell wasn't exactly child's play, but it’s what I thought would work. I had it take the form of a net, and it threw bright sparks across the room as I lifted it into the air. Now, if that stupid fish would just... stay... still!
[The magical net flies out, lands, but a rustle of paper darts out of the way.]
VERENA: Ugh, I missed! The net slapped against the side of the Fish, sending him spinning off through the air. But, as my magic connected with the Ipseity's, a sort of... pulse rippled through the air. Shapes began to spill from the swirling end of the paper fish's tail. They dropped slowly to the ground... smokey and indistinct, like droplets of ink falling through water. Then... slowly, they began to take shape.
[A strange, distorted ripple goes through the room, and the space is suddenly filled with a ghostly presence.]
VERENA: They looked like dancers. But their bodies flickered through shifting tones of grey, as if they'd stepped out of a black and white film.
[The sounds of feet on stone and voices crying out. Weird, unearthly music begins to fill the space.]
VERENA: They laughed, and twirled about, and before I knew what was happening, they were spinning and dancing around me. I was surrounded - a thousand faces spinning all around me, swaying to a dance I didn't know, as a haunting melody filled the air... And there I was on the outside, looking in. Just close enough to touch, but - I felt so... I don’t know.
VERENA: It seemed like there were hundreds of them. They filled the ballroom floor, cascading across the room in a flood of velvet and lace. I could still see the Ipseity, darting in and around their legs, spinning itself in circles as the magical beings twirled and bobbed and spun.
[The fish whizzes through the space. We hear footsteps as Verena darts after it.]
VERENA: I tried to follow it. A harpy in top hat and tails slid suddenly in front of me, blocking the Fish from my view. I reached up a hand to push him out of the way...
[A strange, warping sound. Suddenly, all the other sounds in the room sound distant and muffled.]
VERENA: ...and my fingers slipped through his chest. It was... cold. Not frigid like an icy lake, but cool and... thick... like pushing my hand through kinetic sand that's been left outside overnight. And I knew I'd messed up. Put my hand on something I wanted so badly, but wasn't meant to touch. I yanked my hand away... and watched in dazed horror as all the color leeched from my hand.
[A horrible, draining sound.]
VERENA: And look, I know it's not real. These dancers, my hands vanishing before my eyes, the color of my skin melting into the ether? It's a glamour, right? But the thing about illusory magic is that you can know, intellectually, something isn't really there, isn't really happening. But to break it? To shatter its hold? You need to know, down to your bones, in every fiber of your being what is really real. What is true. Which is really freaking difficult the moment you get scared.
[The sound of the dancing and jovial crowd grows louder, grows more out of control.]
VERENA: Someone else bumped into me from behind, and I turned in time to see the color sliding out of my shoulder, the brown of my skin going slate, then silver, and then an ugly powdery white, before going completely translucent. I tried to push my way out of the crowd, but the press of bodies was too much. I could feel myself being buffeted on all sides, and I screamed as my arms, my legs, my chest all started to disappear.
VERENA: My hands were gone. I tried to call out, but the music was so loud, and the dancers around me didn't even look at me, all these magic users and not one could sense me near them, couldn't be bothered to hear me even as I screamed: Hey! I am here!
[There's a crackle of magical energy.]
VERENA: I felt the magic flood into my fingertips, and in a rush I realized that meant I must still have fingertips. I closed my eyes. Fought to shut out the noise of the party all around me. Tried to ground myself and listen for what was really there.
[There's a whizzing sound and a high-pitched magical thrum.]
VERENA: Gotcha, sucker! And I did. Barely. He was swimming right above my head.
[Another whipping sound as a magical net swings out, then darts off towards the fish. It lands.]
VERENA: The binding spell hit the candelabra, which hit the Fish, who promptly fell and hit me.
[A low impact. All the sounds around Verena cut off.]
VERENA: And it was like the glamour just... popped. Like a soap bubble. The dancers vanished. The ballroom was silent. Empty. I was alone. Well, except for the -
[A whizz, and the fish darts off towards another part of the castle.]
VERENA: Hey, get back here you stupid fish! But no sooner had the Ipseity wriggled out of my hands then it was already on the move. So I ran after it.
[Echoing footsteps as Verena chases after the fish.]
VERENA: Up the stairs. Down the hallway. I saw it dart past what looked like a laboratory, a library, a game room... Through the darkened halls, until we reached a beautiful spiraling staircase...
[We hear a rhythmic, steady pounding.]
VERENA: My hand on the banister was shaking. My heart raced. I almost wanted to go back home and bury myself in the calc homework I didn't understand. Almost. But I'd come too far not to catch this thing. I couldn't let it go.
[Her echoing footsteps continue.]
VERENA: The Fish led me up the winding, unlighted staircase, and into one of the castle's towers.
[Somber music begins playing as Verena enters the tower.]
VERENA: Through the thin embrasures, I could see flashes of the city. Lights flickered like candle flames beneath the vivid white eye of the moon. The lake rolled out below us, black and still.
[She arrives at a door and opens it.]
VERENA: I don't know what I was expecting to find in a magician's attic... but an observatory was definitely not on the list. The stone walls of the castle blended seamlessly into the enormous crystalline dome of Egon's observatory. The night sky spilled out above us, and there must have been some sort of spell on the glass, because I could see every single star in the sky, as clear as the lights along Broadway.
[There's a whistling sound, along with soft tinkling against glass.]
VERENA: And there was the Ipseity. He kept banging his head into the glass, furious to find himself caught in yet another fish bowl... Yeah, well. That makes two of us, pal.
[A piece of furniture creaks.]
VERENA: I had to climb up onto a table to get anywhere near the fish. And let me tell you, it was the last place I wanted to be standing. The table looked like it was one family dinner away from collapsing into a heap. Still, the fish's tail was just out of my reach. So, I figured, at least if I died catching this stupid thing, I'd die doing the most stupid thing possible. Accept no substitutes. [Gulps.] Nothing for it but to jump.
[The music ends. Verena jumps. The fish whistles.]
VERENA: My fingers brushed against the end of the Ipseity's tail, and it tried to shiver away from me, probably just as surprised as I was to have gotten so close.
[A magical pulse goes through the space. Wind begins whipping past Verena.]
VERENA: And then the whole world flipped upside-down... And before I could stop myself, I was falling into the sky. Egon's castle was rushing far away. New York became a glittering pinprick. And suddenly, The Earth was rolling through space below me. It was no bigger than an orange... I could touch it...
[An atmospheric, trance-like hum goes through the air.]
VERENA: Another glamour. I knew that, I'd seen the Ipseity cast it. But come on. You've never wanted to hold the Earth in the palm of your hand? I closed my hands around the globe, and it was warm, and soft, like a living thing. It fit into my hand, like I was meant to have it... like it was mine...
VERENA: I took the world with me as floated onward, into outer space. I could feel the possibilities running through me as stars burst against my skin like dandelions, sending sparks of light cascading across my face and chest.
[Delicate tinkling sounds ring out around Verena.]
VERENA: Moons caught in my hair, pinning themselves into my curls like pearls, while galaxies danced around my ankles and waist. It was... magic. The most extraordinary magic I'd ever seen, ever felt. I felt extraordinary. Would this be how it felt to be a sorcerer? The globe in my hands began to pulse and shake. I felt... I felt...
[A slight rustling sound.]
VERENA: Paper...? Oh, clever boy... I was so distracted, I'd nearly forgotten. Which meant the Ipseity's illusions were getting stronger. But I wasn't about to let him go.
[The fish strains against Verena's grasp.]
VERENA: The Ipseity struggled, wriggling in my grasp. I squeezed, determined not to let it. And then -
[A ripple of magic. The glamour breaks with a glass-like shattering sound.]
VERENA: The illusion shattered. Which was understandable given the caster had been distracted. It was currently being held in the death-grip of a manic teen. Unfortunately, the glamour broke when I was still mid-leap.
[Verena crashes into the floor.]
[A darting, whistling sound.]
VERENA: The Ipseity flew from my grasp. Before I could move, I saw it twist in the air, and suddenly it swam straight towards my chest and...
[A ringing, rippling sound.]
VERENA: ...through me. I saw a sort of... deep, black space, ringed with light open up in the center of me, and close again, just as the fish swam through.
[A series of strange, draining thrums.]
VERENA: And as it did... I felt my magic die.
[A horrible, sucking sound builds and builds under the following:]
VERENA: I felt a thread deep inside of me unravelling, caught on the Fish's tail and drawing itself out of me in one horrible continuous stream, until I was nothing. Empty. The world went grey. And then... I woke up.
[There's another distorting, rippling sound through the air, and all at once the sounds of the office from the start of the episode come rushing back in.]
VERENA: Someone was shaking my shoulder. I sat up, blinking. And there was my sister. She smiled down at me. "Stay sharp," she laughed, "it's not five o'clock yet!"
VERENA: I realized we were in the middle of her office. I was sitting at a desk, inside a grey-walled cubicle, and all around me, I could hear the low drone of quiet conversation and the click-click-click of fingers on keyboards. But that wasn't was really strange. What was strange was my sister, laughing and punching my arm like we were kids again. "You're never going to get that promotion snoozing," she said. All I could do was stare. I had no idea what she was talking about. I was still trying to figure out how I'd gotten here. I'd been halfway across Manhattan... It felt so... real. The magic had to be there.
[Around Verena, we hear typing and low conversation.]
VERENA: I tried to concentrate. To find that missing piece of my heart. A lily sat dying in the vase in my desk. I reached for the magic to make it bloom. I'd done it a thousand times. I used to do it when we played out in the garden, as kids. But nothing happened. There was nothing there.
VERENA: My sister laughed again, and told me to buck up, that, "Your spreadsheets can't be that bad, Ren."
[Dramatic, emotional music starts playing.]
VERENA: I wasn't listening. I was too focused on the flower, on the tips of my fingers, on willing something, anything to happen. [She groans.] It was a dream. A bad joke. It just had to be. I kept reaching for the magic... and coming up empty. And I thought my heart might shatter.
[She bangs her head on the desk. She starts to breath quickly and heavily.]
VERENA: I don't mind telling you that that was around when I full-on lost it. I stared at my hands, breathing hard. On the desk in front of me sat an origami fish folded from a piece of post-it note. It was flat, and lifeless. I couldn't breathe.
[Around her, we hear a young woman laughing.]
VERENA: I could hear my sister laughing again, but this time it was different. Sharper. "Are you watching closely?" she asked. "I warned you, you'd have to grow up sometime. When are you going to accept that this is it, Verena? God, you always do this! Dancing around like you're anything special, like you're better than this! As if you deserve anything other than this. I didn't. No one does. So... what on Earth makes you think you're owed a dream?"
VERENA: I stared at the woman before me, smiling at me through my sister's face. My sister would never say that... My sister would NEVER say that! And suddenly I knew where I was.
[A heavy, distorting ripple goes through the air.]
VERENA: Even though it still looked liked I was in a cubicle, I could feel the stone floor of the observatory. I felt cold air blowing in from the park outside. The magical world. My world. Waiting for me. All I needed to do... was take it.
[A powerful whoosh sounds through the air.]
VERENA: As if she sensed what I was thinking, the creature wearing my sister's face moved to block my path. "A liar like you with a few dime store party tricks does not a magician make. You really think have what it takes?" It shook its head, and sneered down at me. "They rejected you. You weren't enough. You throw this away, you'll have nothing. Be nothing."
VERENA: I looked down at the paper fish folded on my desk. "If that's really what you think of me, joke's on you," I said. "I'll make magic all my own." I turned to the flower on the desk and held out my hand. I thought about everything I had been through that night. Everything I'd felt, and done, and been, and seen. I thought about the flower, and I reached out...
[A clear, bright ringing sound.]
VERENA: And the lily burst into bloom.
[There's a sudden abrupt whoosh, and we are transported back to the observatory. The music ends.]
VERENA: I was back on the observatory floor, for real this time. The little paper fish quiet in my hands. I'd done it. I'd caught the Ipseity. [Laughs.] I had all of two seconds to think I was in the clear when -
VERENA: Egon stood leaning against the desk in a shadowed corner of the room, smiling a wily, disbelieving smile. He pushed himself up, watching me. "Well," he said, tilting his head to one side. "Aren't we impressive?" It is at this point when I probably should have started to beg for my life. At least I could have tried to find a coherent way to explain myself... to point out that this was really all the stupid Fish's fault. Instead, what came out of my mouth was: "You said you weren't going to pick an apprentice!"
VERENA: He laughed. Actually laughed, in my face. The fae looked me right in the eyes, smug as anything, and said, "I never do. Not from the masses, anyway... It's become a bit of a running joke these past few decades..." He must've seen my jaw hit the floor, because then he said, "Oh, come now, don't look so upset. Who did you think I was? Willy Wonka? But I do like seeing what you young folks come up with, what new magic is out there. And you're brimming with it, aren't you?"
VERENA: He held out his hand, and I felt the Ipseity magically pulled from my grasp.
[A sharp whoosh, and the fish leaves Verena's hands.]
VERENA: I gaped as it flew into Egon's open palm. As I watched, a bubble of crystal began to form around the little creature, completely encasing it in its bowl.
[There's a soft crackling sound, like ice forming.]
VERENA: I couldn't help myself. I blurted, "What's the deal with the fish?" But Egon just quirked an eyebrow. "Is that what it looks like to you? Interesting..." He took a second, offered me another smug grin, then explained.
[Gentle music starts playing.]
VERENA: "It's a... mirror, of sorts," he finally said. "A window to the self. Or, in more prosaic terms, a powerful glamouring tool. It brings out imagery from a person's interior landscape, so to speak. It can help illuminate someone's path. Or torment a person with darkest corners of their own mind." He tilted his head in that curious way of his, musing, "It's rare, to catch a glimpse through the windows of the soul... So, Verena: what did you see?"
VERENA: I told him. The dancers, the glittering planets, my sister... A lifetime spent walking this line, strung along the edge of two worlds, unwanted and unable to measure up in either... Egon raised an eyebrow, watching me curiously. "And... where will you go now?" I thought about it. And I could see it all... a thousand roads to the future, all spreading out ahead. All of them leading to me. I shrugged. "Anywhere I want to," I couldn't help but smile. "Everything's open to me."
VERENA: He was silent then. For a long time he just... stood there. Watching me. I waited, but he said nothing, and eventually he turned away and started walking down the stairs.
[Egon's footsteps echo softly.]
VERENA: But without turning to look back at me, he spoke. "Anywhere is all well and good, my dear, but some roads require a guide. If you're really going to do this, you've got a lot to learn and a long journey ahead. So, come on, if you're coming... I do hope you can up."
VERENA: I didn't think. Didn't have just told him I'd be there.
[Egon walks away, disappearing behind a closing door.]
VERENA: And right then is when I realized. I have the funniest feeling the universe is playing a trick on me. I thought I saw it all so clear. And it is all about what you see... See a really good trick - call it true magic, call it sleight of hand - needs two people: A magician... and somebody foolish enough to still believe in magic. Somebody willing to see things... not so clearly, and open their eyes to the truly extraordinary.
VERENA: I'm starting to realize I... I was a bigger fool than I thought. I fell for Egon's apprentice trap... I got tricked by a paper fish... I even repeatedly believed... [Laughs.] Well... in myself.
[The music ends. Around Verena, magical energy crackles with power.]
VERENA: But that's the thing. When it comes to a great magic trick? A good fool believes in anything.
[The hum of her magic fades out and transitions to the Unseen Credits music.]
Announcer: This has been UNSEEN, by Long Story Short Productions, based on an original idea by Gabriel Urbina, with additional conceptual design work by Sarah Shachat. Today’s episode was written by Jordan Cobb and directed by Sarah Shachat, with script editing by Gabriel Urbina and Sarah Shachat. It starred Lisette Alvarez in the role of Verena Morisseau. Original Music by Alan Rodi, and sound design by Zach Valenti. UNSEEN is produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina, along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay. For more information on the Unseen World, please visit Unseen.Show. Thank you for listening.
[Music fades out.]
End of Episode.